We publish a complete free-to-read short story on the web every Thursday. The newest story is below. See all stories.
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I was a news reporter for eight years before I quit my job. For three of those years I sat daily in the gallery of the Intermediate People's Court in Guangzhou, listening to cases. A criminal trial might last for two or three hours, with the verdict and sentence announced in a 15-minute hearing several months later. During that time, I watched a big-shot drug dealer do everything in his power to protect his wife. I witnessed a pair of lover...
Why Translations of Premodern Chinese Poetry Are Having a Moment Right Now
The stakes of poetry translation from Chinese are indeed the stakes both of how we understand translation and how we in the English-speaking world understand China. Translation is neither simply a matter for scholars to judge, nor is it something that can be left to the unaccountable imaginings of revelers in poetry — any more than China should be something only specialists or tourists alone can pronounce upon. Rather, bringing expertise and excitement together, translation can help expand our conceptions of poetry and of China, demanding more from ourselves, and more from it. The contentiousness may remain, but it can motivate us to create new and better representations.
Top 10 highest earning Chinese authors
The tenth of its kind, the ranking is based on the authors' copyright royalties from book sales from December 2014 to December 2015. A total of 70 authors are on the list.
- Yang Zhi（杨治）Pen name: Jiang Nan（江南）
- Leon Image（雷欧幻像）(pen name)
- Zheng Yuanjie（郑渊洁）
- Yang Hongying（杨红缨）
- Yan Bing（鄢冰）Pen name: Da Bing（大冰）
- Xu Lei（徐磊）Pen name: Nanpai Sanshu（南派三叔）
- Zhang Jiajia（张嘉佳）
- Jiang Shengnan（蒋胜男）
- Shen Shixi（沈石溪）
- Chen Sixuan（陈思玄）Pen name: Xuan Se（玄色）
The "Inspector Chen" poems: a look at the man and his verse - by Qiu Xiaolong
As fans of the “Inspector Chen” novels know, the Shanghai detective not only excels at solving crimes and navigating the complexities of politically tricky situations but also writes verse. Now, thanks to Qiu Xiaolong, a poet and translator (as well as a writer of mysteries), a collection of Chen Cao’s poems has become available. Here we provide an introduction to the volume penned Qiu, who unquestionably knows Chen and his poetry better than any other person on earth does—or ever could—due to the crucial role he has played in chronicling the versifying sleuth’s cases and writings. — Jeff Wasserstrom
THE JIA PINGWA PROJECT: SAMPLE TRANSLATIONS OF FOUR NOVELS
Nick Stember: "So, in March I met Jia Pingwa 贾平凹. Even if you’re familiar with Chinese literature in translation, you might not have heard of Jia, despite his towering presence in contemporary Chinese literature."
"Iron Girls to Leftover Women: What Next for Chinese Women?" is a blog I've just written for Foyles, a mega-bookshop in London (and elsewhere) with an impressive website including regular blogs. I approached them because I knew they'd ordered some copies of Xu Xiaobin (徐小斌)'s Crystal Wedding and I wanted to do some promotion for the book. But it's hard to interest the general reader in a (virtually) unknown author and book, so I decided to pick up on the piece Xu Xiaobin wrote recently for PEN Atlas, "A sea of red flags" and write about women. Xinran (薛欣然) has written a lot about Chinese women too, and was happy to be included...and so I ended up with two nice interviews. I have no idea if it will shift more books by both these authors off the shelves, but it felt like a worthwhile thing to do......
By Nicky Harman, June 25 '16, 3:47a.m.
Writing Chinese - children's literature day - Leeds, 2 July
To coincide with the awarding of the most recent Hans Christian Andersen Award to Chinese children’s author Cao Wenxuan, we are holding a special day-long event on children’s fiction in Chinese.
We’re delighted to welcome Minjie Chen, expert on Chinese children’s literature, and librarian at Princeton University, to give our key-note speech. And we’re also lucky enough to be joined by Helen Wang, Cao Wenxuan’s English translator; Katharine Carruthers, Director of the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) Confucius Institute for Schools; the translator Anna Gustafsson Chen; Valerie Pellatt, expert on Chinese translation and Chinese children's poetry and nursery rhymes, and others involved in teaching and translating Chinese fiction.
So, it’s rather gone by in a whirlwind, but we’ve reached the end of
our first year of Read Paper Republic. Starting June 18 of last year,
we’ve published 53 short pieces online, one each Thursday (there’s 53
weeks in a year, right?), and today’s publication of Li Jingrui’s One
Day, One of the Screws Will Come Loose marks the end of what we’ve
come to think of as “Read Paper Republic, Season One”.
We’re taking a short break! Nicky Harman, Helen Wang and Dave Haysom
have done a remarkable amount of work over the past year, and it's time for a breather while we think about where to go from here.
Apropos of that, we have a request to make of you! We’ve created a
very short online survey that we very much hope you’ll take a moment
to fill out. It’s only a page, and will be invaluable to us as we look
back over the past year of publications, and think about the future.
Please take five minutes and help us fill it out!
So what will be next? We’re not sure yet. Over the next six months,
we’re likely to make some more additions to the RPR lineup, probably
based around events and author visits in various parts of the world.
“Season One” was done with no funding whatsoever (thanks to all our
editors, translators and authors!), and we’re very aware that we could
make a hypothetical “Season Two” a lot better with a bit of support.
Got any good ideas for doing that? Please let us know in the survey!
By Eric Abrahamsen, June 16 '16, 2:31a.m.
3 Chinese books longlisted for the FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards 2016
Three Chinese titles have made the longlist (without so much as a nod to the translators)
The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam, Canongate Books, Bangladesh / UK
Home by Leila S. Chudori, Deep Vellum Publishing, Indonesia
The Seventh Day by Yu Hua, Pantheon Books, China
The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James, Harvill Secker. India / USA
Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan, Verso Books, Indonesia
The Four Books by Yan Lianke, Chatto & Windus, China
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan, Chatto & Windus, India / USA
Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy, MacLehose Press, India
Reckless by Hasan Ali Toptaş, Bloomsbury Publishing, Turkey
Crystal Wedding by Xu Xiaobin, Balestier Press, China
Congratulations to ALL involved.
Good Good Study: Laowai Translator Finds Joy In Chinese Literature
The laowai is our very own Eric!
Origin of Jia Pingwa's Name
Before his birth, [Jia Pingwa's] mother had a prenatal consultation with a village fortune-teller. She was
anxious because her first child had died soon after birth. The advice was that she should go into labour not at home but at the neighbouring village of
Jinpen 金盆 (Golden Bowl), which should bring good luck to the baby. After
birth, the child should be given a plain name to distract the attention of
demons and to allow for a safe growth. Consequently his mother named him
‘Pingwa 平娃’, ordinary boy, which he later changed to its pun, ‘Pingwa 平凹’,
meaning ‘level and uneven’...Hu Heqing regards the change of the characters as a magic transformation, for ‘level and uneven’ reflects a Taoist balance of natural elements: ‘ping’ refers to flat, unshaded places and therefore implies the element of yang, whereas ‘wa’, the indented surface, is hidden from the sun and naturally stands for the element of yin. ‘Pingwa’ hence achieves the most desirable balance between yin and yang.
Interview with Can Xue
There are very few progressive Chinese people right now, so I pin my hopes on the young. They are in their 20s now. In another 20 years, when they encounter problems spiritually, or when materialism cannot meet their needs, they might pick up one of my books, because I write to empower people, to make them independent, to develop their qualities as human beings.
2016 is, everyone agrees, a bad year for China. Usually, what a bad
year consists of is everyone telling each other “It’s a bad year here
in China”. But there’s good evidence that this year is objectively
worse than most. First, there’s Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crusade,
which might be a righteous attempt to return the government to the
strait and narrow, but also might be a thinly-disguised campaign to
rid the official ranks of the less-than-loyal – and, sadly, is
probably both. The past twelve months seem have been a record season
for lawyer jailing which is always a really, really bad sign. The
internet occasionally verges on unusable. Hong Kong booksellers are
disappearing. For some reason, the fact that women’s-rights activist
Xiao Meili was stopped by police outside the Beijing Bookworm and
turned back from an event she was supposed to attend really drove it
home for me.
Even in better times, China’s publishing industry generally leads the
nation in gratuitous timidity. The echo-chamber effect is particularly
strong here – whispered rumors, sidelong glances, knowing nods, and
then the quiet consensus that “we’d better not risk it”. In a country
where everyone is kept guessing by the capriciousness of those in
power, publishers seem to have more sensitive antennae than pretty
much anyone else out there. And apart from occasional meetings with
SAPRFFT (where the government directives rarely amount to anything
more specific than “be careful, this is a bad year for China”),
publishers don’t have much more to go on than water-cooler gossip.
That, and the occasional castastrophic exercise of brute authority.
By Eric Abrahamsen, May 27 '16, 11:20p.m.
Paper Republic collective and friends put together this list for LitHub.com:
"Most readers nowadays, asked to name a contemporary Chinese writer, could manage at least one. But the odds are that it will be a man. Yet the near-invisibility of Chinese women writers internationally is entirely undeserved. They flourish on the literary scene at home and have done so since the beginning of the New Culture Movement in the early twentieth century. We are quite proud that this list (drawn up by the Paper-Republic.org collective and friends) ranges so widely. There’s something here for everyone, from travel literature to novels and short story collections, from fantasy and sci-fi to meditations on love and loneliness, with plenty of dark humor along the way. We have included works from all over the Chinese-writing world–mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (and one from USA too)."
By Nicky Harman, May 25 '16, 3:03p.m.
Terrific article by Helen Wang and Paul Crook:
"The British Museum collection of Mao badges currently stands at about 350 pieces. It’s part of the UK’s national collection of badges from all over the world. Since the catalogue of Mao badges was published, every so often I receive emails from people who have their own Mao badge collections, often numbering in the hundreds or thousands. One such person is Clint Twist, who, with only a little encouragement a couple of years ago, set up what is probably the first English language website devoted to Mao badges — and tweets a Mao badge almost every day @clinttwist.
More recently, I discovered that one of the British Museum volunteers, Paul Crook, had been a teenage Mao badge dealer in Beijing in the 1960s! Paul — who was recently interviewed by the BBC for a segment on posters from the Mao era — kindly agreed to talk about that time, vividly confirming Dikötter’s statement that “badges were the most hotly traded pieces of private property during the first years of the Cultural Revolution, open to every form of capitalist speculation.”
By Nicky Harman, May 25 '16, 2:59p.m.
Why are Beijing's gig venues closing?
Yang Jiang (1911-2016)
Yang Jiang died at Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing, according to The Paper, a state-owned news website. It said her death had been confirmed by her publisher, the People's Literature Publishing House.
As Chinese sci-fi picks up steam, it’s finding fans around the world
Although many foreign readers are very interested in Chinese science fiction, many have limited access to its works due to language barriers and lack of translations.
One out of 178 social media posts in China's cybersphere are authored and posted by a government employee — totaling 488 million annual posts — according to a new report written by professors at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of California.
It is based partly on analysis of leaked e-mails (43,000!) from an Internet Propaganda Office in Jiangxi. It appears that most are intended to distract the public from bad news. You can read about the report here and here, or download the 34-page PDF here.
So much for quantitative research. I'm more interested in how the 50c Party (五毛党) plays out in contemporary Chinese fiction. I recall the way author Stephen Koonchung recreated one of China's first real social-media-driven “mass incidents” (trucks carrying hundreds of dogs to slaughter in Beijing were blocked by activists thanks to real-time messaging) in his Kafkaesque Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver. Such scenes in a novel can be quite effective in sensitizing readers to the phenomenon, perhaps more than any single statistics-studded report.
- Is it permissible to write in detail about such government-sponsored propaganda in short stories, novellas or novels?
- How are Chinese fiction writers portraying the impact of the 50c Gang on conversation in shaping public opinion?
- Titles of works of Chinese fiction in which 50c Gang activities or members figure prominently?
By Bruce Humes, May 20 '16, 8:28p.m.
Beijing hosts prestigious Bologna exhibition (children's book illustration)
Beijing's National Museum of Classic Books is currently hosting the Bologna Illustrators Exhibition. Featuring the works of 70 international illustrators, it's the exhibition's first appearance outside of Italy. Exhibition in Beijing until 22 May, then touring to 5 other cities, including Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Chengdu.
The Rise of the Chinese Hipster
A popular Beijing arts magazine listed profiles of Wenqing in a 2014 article: “An advertising employee who writes critiques of plays and goes to the Philippines for diving trips. In her spare time, she translates cookbooks. Another works at a multinational and is in charge of public relations. She goes to work on a bus and listens to classical music. She copies poems into a tiny notebook each night and has translated three romantic novels from English into Chinese . . . They want a comfortable life, but also a rich spiritual existence. They appreciate the poetry of Rilke and they go to Europe for fun.”
Dinosaur relics named after science fiction writer Liu Cixin
A new kind of bird-footed dinosaur footprint was discovered in Gulin county, Southwest China's Sichuan province and named for Chinese science-fiction writer Liu Cixin, to honor his contribution to raising public interest in science.
The Liu Cixin Caririchnium
Research Results: Sales of Translated Fiction in the UK Shows Growth
The good news:
Translated literary fiction makes up only 3.5% of the literary fiction titles published in the UK, but 7% of the volume of sales
On average, translated fiction books sell better than books originally written in English, particularly in literary fiction.
The not-so-good news:
No Chinese fiction among top 15 translated titles in 2015
We are delighted to announce the results of the 2016 Bai Meigui translation competition, a collaboration between Paper Republic and the Writing Chinese project at Leeds University. Over 80 entrants submitted translations of the competition text by 李静睿 Li Jingrui, and it was only after lengthy deliberation (and the occasional threat of violence) that the judges were able to narrow the shortlist down to just one winner and runner-up:
By David Haysom, May 10 '16, 7:43a.m.
Speaking recently at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Chinese author Yan Lianke (閻連科) spoke about the ominous rise of a "warm and fuzzy" kind of Chinese literature (温暖的文学) that the government, readers and critics all find acceptable. Here is an excerpt from notes taken at the talk (thus they may not be his exact words) which appear in an article 中國文學的唱衰者 at the newly launched (and interesting) Chinese-language web site, theinitiam.com:
By Bruce Humes, May 1 '16, 7:51p.m.
According to a 2016-04-28 report (战略投资) in The Paper (澎湃讯), Thinkingdom Media Group Ltd (新经典文化) has made a “strategic investment” in France’s Editions Philippe Picquier. The report does not specify the $ amount or portion of the French publisher that is now in Chinese hands. Picquier is already a major French-language publisher of Chinese fiction writing including titles by Yu Hua, Wang Anyi, Alai, Su Tong, Han Shaogong, Bi feiyu, Chi Zijian, Ge Fei, Liang Hong and Li Er.
Some 15,000 copies of Wang Anyi’s 《长恨歌》(Le Chant des regrets éternels) have sold in French, according to the news item. Picquier's first venture into the world of translated Chinese popular fiction publishing was apparently Wei Hui's naughty Shanghai Baby, back in the early 2000s.
It will be interesting to see if and how Thinkingdom uses Picquier as a platform for the campaign to bring more contemporary Chinese literature in translation to the Francophone world.
By Bruce Humes, April 30 '16, 7:44p.m.
Author Yue Tao - event in London on 4 May
Talk and discussion with author Yue Tao, about her book Shanghai Blue, in London on 4 May, at 18.30. Contact email@example.com by 1 May to reserve a place. £5/£8.
Chen Zhongshi, Shaanxi-based author of the 20th-century classic, White Deer Plain (白鹿原, 陈忠实著), has died.
1) White Deer Plain has been published in French, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. Anyone working on the English, and if not, why not?
2) The novel was published in 1993. Any insights into why he wrote relatively little thereafter?
3) How to render the first line of White Deer Plain --- especially 房 ---:
By Bruce Humes, April 29 '16, 7:47p.m.
Hao Jingfang nominated for this year's Hugo Awards
Hao Jingfang has been nominated for this year's Hugo Awards with her novel "Folding Beijing"
Reclaiming the Evenki Narrative: Last Shaman’s Daughter Tells her People’s 20th-century Tale
There are only 30,000 or so Evenki (鄂温克族) on the Chinese side of the Sino-Russian border. But this Tungusic-speaking, reindeer-herding people — particularly the group known as the Aoluguya Evenki — has been the subject of several award-winning documentaries and even a novel that won the Mao Dun Literature Prize in 2008. According to an article on the China Writer’s Association web site, a new novel — 驯鹿角上的色带 — featuring the Evenki will launch end April.
Natascha Bruce talks about starting out as a Chinese-to-English translator: "....it actually never occurred to me to make the link between literature existing in translation, and there being real people out there creating those translations. I don’t know what I would have said I thought happened, if pushed? That once you have studied Chinese for one hundred years and can prove, for certain, that you know everything – will catch every single hidden reference to a Tang poem without missing a beat – there’s a special ceremony and you are given a laptop made of jade and a library of books, and told to go forth and be the person to make them accessible to the English-reading world, something mystical like that."
By Nicky Harman, April 21 '16, 4:11p.m.
Every year, the LTC hosts wall-to-wall panels and discussions about the highlights and lowlights of being a translator, and the business of translation in general, for the whole three days. We didn’t keep any notes but, thankfully, others did. Here’s a selection of blogs and articles.
By Nicky Harman, April 19 '16, 5:31a.m.
For London folk: Centre of Taiwan Studies
"Masked Dolls" - An evening with the Taiwanese Author Shih Chiung-Yu.
28 April 2016, 7:00 PM, at Brunei Gallery, Room: B102, School of Oriental and African Studies, Malet Street, London WC1
By Nicky Harman, April 15 '16, 9:28a.m.
The big recent news in Chinese children's literature is Cao Wenxuan's winning of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award, sometimes called the "Nobel Prize for Children's Literature". It's a big deal inside China, where the media closely watches the progress of the prize.
Like the Nobel, the prize is given to a writer for their entire oeuvre, not for any book in particular, but despite this everyone still points to works in particular. In this case, that's probably Bronze and Sunflower, translated by Helen Wang and published in the UK last year by Walker Books. In honor of the win, we conducted an email interview with Helen about her views on Cao's works (in case you didn't know, Helen is also one of the editors of Read Paper Republic, and is currently to be found representing PR at the London Book Fair). See below for the full interview.
By Eric Abrahamsen, April 13 '16, 5:42a.m.